The OBC face of the Bharatiya Janata Party in Maharashtra and former deputy chief minister, Gopinath Munde, who had joined the Union Cabinet for the first time a week back, was all set to spearhead the party's campaign in the upcoming assembly polls in the state to wrest power from the Congress-Nationalist Congress Party combine.
The 64-year-old Union rural development minister, who died on Tuesday following a road accident in New Delhi, was a five-time MLA and had always harboured the ambition of becoming first BJP chief minister of Maharashtra.
A known detractor of NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Munde was credited with neutralising the Maratha politician's influence to such an extent that the Sena-BJP combine came to power in the 1995 assembly polls and he became the deputy chief minister.
Brother-in-law of slain BJP leader Pramod Mahajan, Munde hails from a poor family in the backward Marathwada region and was brought into politics by the late BJP leader Vasantrao Bhagwat, who also groomed several others including Pramod Mahajan.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi along with the BJP leadership had handpicked Munde to lead the party's campaign in the state where assembly polls are due in four months.
Munde, who was the deputy leader of opposition in 15th Lok Sabha, won the Lok Sabha polls this time despite Pawar making the Beed seat a prestige issue.
He also served as general secretary of the party at the national level and as chairman of the committee on chemicals and fertilisers in the outgoing Lok Sabha.
Born on December 12, 1949, and hailing from Nathra village in Beed district, Munde was member of Maharashtra legislative assembly for five terms, 1980-1985, 1990-2009. He was born to Pandurang Munde and Limbabai Munde in a middle class Vanjari (caste) farmer's family.
He is survived by wife and three daughters -- Pankaja, Pritam and Yashashri. Pankaja Palave represents the Parli assembly seat in Beed district.
The most prominent leader of the party in Maharashtra for over two decades along with his late brother-in-law Pramod Mahajan, Munde was the architect of the social engineering formula by cobbling up the opposition 'Mahayuti' alliance which got 42 of the 48 Lok Sabha seats in the state in the recent Lok Sabha polls.
Munde was the leader of opposition in Maharashtra legislative assembly during 1992-1995. He donned various roles in Maharashtra including that of deputy chief minister from 1995-1999.
He began his political journey in college with ABVP. He was also a part of agitation against state of emergency imposed by the then PM Indira Gandhi.
The turning point of his career was his joining the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh. He was later made president of the Maharashtra unit of the BJP's youth wing, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha.
Image: Gopinath Munde leading a BJP protest rally against price rise, in Mumbai
Photograph: Sahil Salvi